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Jesus is Denied

6 Caravaggio’s Denial of Saint Peter.jpg

Denial of St. Peter
by Caravaggio


Matthew 26:69-75
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”  Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.


The denial of Peter is hard to understand if you have never been afraid of the consequences of a threat.  Peter lied to protect himself. Once someone lies, they often will “double down” on the lie when presented with a chance to admit the truth – even if the consequences are small.  Peter was likely to be crucified if he admitted the truth then.   


Peter gave in to fear.  It broke him, because he talked a good talk about staying with Jesus to the end, but fear got the better of him.  Just as he walked on water, fear was his undoing.  Just as he dined with the Gentiles in Acts, but later hid because he feared disapproval from the Jewish believers.   When we let fear, shame and guilt determine how we act, we will always act in self-protective ways, not in kindness, love, or truth. 

It is natural to fear because we feel we are threatened (real or imagined) on some level, and fear of mortal danger is healthy.  You should be afraid of fire and drowning. You should be afraid of people willing to kill, but don’t let fear determine your actions.  Heroes understand fear, because their love for others is greater than their fear for themselves. 

Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is the presence of deeper love and truth than fear can touch.

Peter was broken by fear. For three denials, he was restored three times putting him in touch with the love Jesus had for him, and the truth that God would be for him, even if he is broken and fails again.  And he did!  Judas couldn’t trust and accept that God would give grace; Peter could. That is the main things that separates them.  Brennan Manning said “accepting the reality of our sinfulness means accepting our authentic self. Judas could not face his shadow; Peter could. The latter befriended the impostor within; the former raged against him.”   Do you think God could meet you with the same kind of grace he showed Peter?   If there were something you think keeps you from God’s grace, would you be willing to ask Jesus to show you grace for it now?


Lord, I know that I let fear decide more in my life than I want.  Give me courage by helping me have a deeper grasp of your love and truth.  I believe that you care for me as much as you cared for Judas and Peter.  Help me to be like Peter and accept that you are kind to me when I am broken.  Help me to trust that my failures and self-protective behaviors are not an obstacle to you.  Thank you that you have given me Peter as an example:  he was so important to church history because of the greatness of your grace, not because he was great.  If he is good enough for your love, help me to see that I am too.

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